In the past year Congressman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) has committed THREE possible ethics violations.
I will chronicle all of them here as reported by propublica.org:
In July, the New York Times reported that Rangel rented four rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem luxury building and used one of them as his campaign office. This arrangement appeared to violate New York State and City laws that require a rent-stabilized apartment to be used as one’s primary residence. After the story broke, Rangel promptly moved the office from his apartment and filed an ethics complaint against himself.
But a few days later Rangel was back in the news. This time, the Washington Post reported that Rangel had used congressional stationery to solicit funds for his personal foundation from companies with business before his committee. In response, Rangel filed another ethics complaint ($) against himself. Rangel’s foundation, the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service, garnered the nickname “Monument to Me” last year after he secured a $1.9 million earmark for it.
Then on Aug. 31, the New York Post broke the news that Rangel had failed to disclose income from renting his Caribbean villa. (The Post‘s photo of a dozing Rangel is an added bonus.) According to the Times‘ follow-up, Rangel failed to report the $75,000 in income not only on his congressional disclosure forms, but also on his state and federal income tax filings. What’s more, Rangel hadn’t paid interest on the villa’s mortgage for 10 years. That loan was given to him by a company in which a donor to Rangel was a principal investor. Rangel pleaded ignorance on the loan terms and, once again, called for an ethics investigation
Congressman Rangel is the chairman of the House and Ways committee, perhaps the most powerful committee on capital hill. Now you would think that a man with Rangel’s credentials and experience would know better than to allow himself to become ensnared in such a mess. But it is because of his experience and credentials, that he believed he could flout the system, and enrich himself at the expense of taxpayers and his common sense of decency. So what about the ethics probe initiated by his colleagues in the house? It’s funny, but since the allegations about Rangel came to light, the investigation has been bogged down due to partisan bickering, and legislative delay. An investigation once thought to last a month or so has dragged on for 10. House republicans think that it would be appropriate for Congressman Rangel to relinquish his chairmanship of the house and ways committee until the adjournment of his ethics case, but democrats have fought that. Meanwhile, Mr. Rangel has continued his work, probably unconcerned in the least about repercussions. In fact, Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of the Citizens for Ethics says most politicians don’t need to be worried:
But if history is any guide, there’s little reason for Rangel to worry. Why? Because congressional ethics committees rarely discipline members of Congress.
“The ethics committees never do anything,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Ethics in Washington. “When is there anyone’s conduct that they actually think is a problem?”
This reality contrasts with the rhetoric of congressional Democrats like Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who pledged to “drain the swamp” of corruption when she took over the leadership more than two years ago.
The reality is that ethics, as you and I know them, do not apply to the people that we elect to public office. There is no fear of recrimination. Charlie Rangel will continue to swim on the beach, and the tide will wash his unethical stink away.